Opposition to coal in the United Kingdom

From Global Energy Monitor

Citizen protests against coal in the UK

Aug. 31, 2006: Drax Power Plant blockade attempt

On August 31, 2006, around 600 people attempted to shut down the Drax coal-fired power plant in Selby, England, in a widely-publicized action - organized by a variety of environmental groups - that was billed as "the battle of Drax." Several raiding parties of activists were arrested while trying to break through the perimeter fence. A larger crowd of people then pushed through police lines, and were arrested as well. 38 people were arrested throughout the day, in a massive show of force by area police. Many power plant staff didn't show up for the day, and others locked their doors.[1][2]

A Greenpeace activist chains herself to the coal conveyor belt at the Kingsnorth Power Plant near Kent, England.

Oct. 8, 2007: Greenpeace occupation of Kingsnorth Power Station

On October 8, 2007, 50 Greenpeace UK activists occupied the Kingsnorth Power Station near Kent, England. One team of people shut down the conveyor belts carrying coal into the plant, and then chained themselves to the machinery. Another team scaled the plant's chimney, upon which they painted the phrase "Gordon Bit It." Greenpeace held the action in protests of plans by the plant's owners, E.ON, to build two new coal-fired plants at the site - which would be the first coal-fired power plants built in the UK in 20 years. Police arrested 18 people during the action.[3][4]

A group of activists - including some polar bears - occupy a construction vehicle at the Ffos-y-fran coal mine in South Wales on Dec. 5, 2007.

Dec. 5, 2007: Blockade of Ffos-y-fran coal mine construction site

On December 5, 2007, about thirty local residents and activists from a variety of environmental groups - many of whom were dressed as polar bears - occupied the Ffos-y-fran coal mine construction site in South Wales. Several polar bears chained themselves to bulldozers, while other people hung a banner from one bulldozer criticizing Prime Minister Gordon Brown's ongoing support for coal power (the action was timed to coincide with the Bali climate change negotiations). Miller Argent, the company digging the mine, plans to remove 11 million tons of coal from the site. Several community groups have spoken out against the mine, which is being built about forty yards from several homes.[5]

Activists occupy construction machinery at the Ffos-y-Fran coal mine construction site in South Wales on April 1, 2008.

April 1, 2008: Occupation of Ffos-y-fran coal mine construction site

On April 1, 2008, as part of the Fossil Fools International Day of Action, dozens of local residents and activists from a variety of environmental groups occupied the Ffos-y-fran coal mine construction site in South Wales. Protestors arrived at 6 am, scaled a coal washery and dropped a 100-foot banner, took over construction machinery, and locked themselves to the front gate, shutting down major work at the site for the day. Police made two arrests, and the other activists left without incident.[6][7]

Eastside Climate Action activists blockade E.ON's headquarters in Nottingham on April 1, 2008.

April 1, 2008: Eastside Climate Action blockade of E.ON headquarters in Nottingham

On April 1, 2008, as part of the Fossil Fools International Day of Action, 30 activists with Eastside Climate Action blockaded the front entrance of E.ON's headquarters in Nottingham, England. Two people used U-locks to lock themselves to the front door, while others blockaded the back entrance; other protestors poured green paint on themselves, to simulate E.ON's "greenwashing". The action was in protest of E.ON's plans to build the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant - the first new coal plant in the UK in 50 years. Police made two arrests, and the building was shut down for the day.[8][9]

Activists blockade the front gates of the Aberthaw power station in South Wales on April 3, 2008.

April 3, 2008: Rising Tide occupation of Aberthaw Power Station

On April 3, 2008, as part of the Fossil Fools International Day of Action, members of Bristol Rising Tide occupied the Aberthaw coal-fired power plant in South Wales. Activists entered the facility, chained themselves to conveyor belts, and occupied several buildings; others locked themselves to the facility's front gates. The action was in solidarity with the Ffos-y-Fran mine construction site in South Wales; coal from Ffos-y-Fran will be used to fuel Aberthaw for 17 years. Police arrested 11 people.[10][11]

June 13, 2008: Activists halt coal train on its way to UK's largest power plant

On the morning of June 13, 2008, 40 Camp for Climate Action activists, a small number disguised as railway workers, flagged down and stopped a coal train on its way to Drax Power Station, the UK's largest power plant. Protesters climbed onto the train and unloaded almost 20 tons of coal onto the tracks[12] while others chained themselves to the train. A banner was unfurled reading 'Leave it in the Ground!'. Riot police stormed the train and removed the protesters around midnight. 29 were arrested[13].

July 16, 2008: UK activists target coal-fired plant's PR spin machine

On July 16, 2008, activists with Oxford Climate Action blockaded the headquarters of public relations giant Edelman Public Relations. Several protestors gained access to the firms offices while others climbed onto the roof to unfurl a banner reading "Edelman: Spinning The Climate Out Of Control".[14] Edelman PR was hired by E.On, the world’s largest investor-owned energy service provider.[15] E.On is proposing to upgrade its coal-fired Kingsnorth power station to use supercritical coal technology. Kingsnorth is currently considered to be a conventional coal plant but under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, the plant would eventually have to be closed without the upgrade.[16] According to activists, Edelman PR is engaging in a campaign to 'greenwash' E.On's continued investment in burning coal.[17]

August 11, 2008: Activists glue themselves to coal giant's headquarters

On August 11, 2008, nine activists glued themselves to the revolving door and windows at BHP Billiton's headquarters in central London. The protesters also scattered coal across the floor of the lobby. BHP is one of the world's largest coal companies. According to one activist the protest was to highlight that the "expansion of the coal industry is unacceptable in the face of impending climate chaos." The protest ended peacefully after 90 minutes and there were no arrests.[18]

April 14, 2009: 114 arrested for allegedly planning direct action against coal plant in Nottingham, UK

Police carried out what may be the largest preemptive strike on environmental activism in British history. 114 people were arrested for planning a direct action at a coal-fired power station, believed to be E.ON's Ratcliff-on-Soar plant. Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green party, said, "confidence in policing of protests like this has just about hit rock bottom. Peaceful protest is a civil liberty we need to be upheld, even more in the context of the lack of government action on climate change. We have tried all the usual channels." The alleged activists were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage and aggravated trespass.

E.ON confirmed that the Ratcliff plant was the intended target. No group claimed responsibility for the alleged protest. Although no details of the proposed action were available, veteran activists suggested that demonstrators may have planned to chain themselves to conveyor belts transporting coal into the power plant. The tactic has been used at both Ratcliffe and the Kingsnorth Power Station, also owned by E.ON UK.[19]

August 10, 2009: Activists dump coal outside South Lanarkshire Council headquarters in Hamilton, UK

Activists protesting plans for a new mine near Douglas, UK dumped piles of coal outside the headquarters of South Lanarkshire Council. A damaged conveyor belt, which was suspected to be another action by climate change protesters, disrupted coal deliveries at an existing mine in the area. The protesters, organized by the Camp for Climate Action Scotland, said they wanted to call attention to the environmental and health issues of open cast mining.[20]

October 2009: Greenpeace activist stops coal freighter

Over 50 British Greenpeace activists in October 2009 led a protest on top of the House of Parliament to protest the country's use of coal. The activists that were arrested spent one day in jail. Emma Gibson, one of the protesters involved, stated that her children give her the strength to be involved in such actions against coal.

"Having twins changed me enormously. Physically and emotionally it was a very difficult experience," she said. "I felt that if I could survive twins, then I could survive anything."[21]

October 17-18, 2009: Protest against E.ON's Ratcliffe plant

On August 31, 2009, Climate Camp activists announced a planned action against Ratcliffe coal-fired power plant in central England. The protesters hope to shut down the plant in a mass protest scheduled for October 17 and 18, 2009. Activist Charlotte Johnson said, "We will shut Ratcliffe by land, water and air. People will break into the plant and occupy the chimney. Coal power stations must be shut permanently if we are to have any chance of stopping catastrophic climate change." A spokesman for E.ON said the company will work with police to ensure the plant remains in operation. Ratliffe ranks 18th on a list of the most polluting power plants in Europe in 2008.[22]

During the action, hundreds of protesters tried to break through a security fence surrounding the plant. Police arrested more than 50 activists.[23]

June 2009: Protesters at Mainshill Wood in Scotland Protest Coal Mine

Climate change activists, calling themselves the Mainshill Solidarity Camp, erected a treehouse, tunnels and even a hammock that surrounded a site of a proposed open cast coal mine controlled by Scottish Coal. Protester Ross Jones said: "The reaction has been amazing. It was the first of its kind demonstration against coal mining in the country. Protesters stated that it was the beginning of more such actions to follow.[24]

January 2010: Police arrest 11 at Scotland Coal Mine

Protesters associated with Mainshill Solidarity Camp were arrested after a six month occupation of an open cast mining site in Scotland on January 25, 2010. The protests began in June of 2009. Over ten activists were arrested in total. As the Guardian UK reported:

The police, supported by the national evictions team, raided the Mainshill protest camp near Douglas in Lanarkshire at 8.30am this morning, to start clearing about 40 climate campaigners now occupying tunnels, tree houses, and homemade, barricaded huts.
By 3pm today 11 protesters had been removed, and were charged with offences including aggravated trespass and breach of the peace.
Some were forcibly taken down from platforms erected roughly 100ft high in nearby trees by a specialist civilian eviction company from Wales now routinely used across the UK by police, bailiffs and, in Scotland, sheriff's officers, to combat environmental protests.[25]

The opencast mine where the protest took place is owned by the Earl of Home, Mainshill. The location has been the target of many protests in central Scotland against the practice of opencast mining. In all there are four other opencast mines in the immediate area around Mainshill.[25]

March 22, 2010: Protesters Set up Camp to Protest Mine in UK

On March 22, 2010, anti-coal activists began protesting UK Coal's proposed coal mine near the communities of New Works and Little Wenlock. UK Coal promised to take legal action against the protesters if they did not remove themselves from the site. The protest began in response to the coal company's proposed opencast mine to be dug in the area. Dozens of protesters, some camped over night, sought to disrupt the operation with non-violent direct action. One of the protesters, who wouldn't be named, said: “We object because it’s so close to The Wrekin and people’s homes.”

Another protester, who also did not want to be named, said: “They already started to cut down trees which they said were around 20 years old, but they’re not, they’re about 150 years old.”[26]

As of April 28, 2010 the site of the proposed mine was still being occupied by anti-coal activists. At that time UK Coal was seeking legal authority to arrest the protesters. The government run company noted that operations were still set to begin by June 2010.[27]

March 26, 2010: Activists Protest Opencast Mine in UK

On Mary 26, 2010, 25 anti-coal activists occupied the site of the Blair House Opencast coal mining operation. The UK Coal company was operator of the mine. As reported by UK Indymedia about the event:

UK Coal have been given permission by Fife Council to mine 720,000 tonnes of coal from the site, a decision that disregarded the wishes of local residents. Nearly 150 people objected to the planning application for this site and there were no letters of support. The Council, in their defence, wouldn't dare refuse another open cast coal mine application after their refusal of ATH Resources mine at Muir Dean on the insistence of Crossgates residents, was overturned by the government and cost them financially.
The site is ecologically diverse and home to a population of Great Crested Newts, a European Protected Specie, the Black Wood Wildlife site, designated as an area that once had ancient woodland and is now home to birch forests and oak trees, orchids, breeding birds and wintering birds, bats, red squirrels and Brown hares, listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Cowstrandburn river will be diverted and undoubtedly polluted, along with other watercourses in the area.
Some 2.11 million tonnes of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere from the combustion of the coal, with more still being released from the mining process. None of this will be captured and stored. New coal mines such as this one undermine the governments plans to reduce Scotland's CO2 emissions and highlight the hypocrisy of government ministers and local councils when it comes to reducing emissions.
Fiona Richards, one of the people currently occupying the site said, “This new coal mine is only one of 20 such others to have recently been given planning permission in Scotland. If we are to have any chance of limiting dangerous climate change and protecting communities from carbon-intensive industries, direct action must be taken as councillors, mining companies and the government have shown their unwillingness to solve the problems we face.”[28]

April 2010: Coal Activists End Protest at Opencast Mine in UK

Protesters who occupied an opencase mine operated by UK Coal to highlight an opencast coal development in the town of Fife believe ended their protest after two weeks in April 2010. The activists left the mine site prior to a court order that would have forced them to. In a statement the group wrote:

The camp occupied the site for a week-and-a-half to show UK Coal and other mine operators that no new mine or coal infrastructure is safe and out of reach of protesters. The intention of the camp from the beginning was to hold a short-term occupation to bring attention to the issue, make links with local communities and cost UK Coal money. One of the primary aims of the camp was to cost UK Coal money and make it more difficult for the company to cause such destruction in other places.[29]

April 12, 2010: Sabotage Claimed at Proposed Coal Mine in Scotland

In an anonymous post on Scotland's Indymedia site, the author claimed that in the early hours of April 12, 2010 three machines were sabotaged to the extent that they would have been inoperable to work on the Mainshill opencast coal mining site. The act, noted the post, would be costly to the mine's operator Scottish Coal. The identity of the individual(s) involved in the action are not known, nor do there appear to be any press reports confirming that the sabotage actually took place.[30]

April 26, 2010: Coal Train Blockaded in Wales

On Monday 26 April activists associated with Rising Tide blockaded the railtrack which carries coal from the opencast mine at Ffos-y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales to Aberthaw B Power Station in South Wales. It took the combined efforts of British Rail Police and South Wales Police over 8 hours to remove the last of the protesters. According to a press release from Rising Tide, 18 People from Bristol and Bath were charged under the Malicious Damages Act of 1861, a law to protect the interests of 19th Century rail owners. If convicted they face anything up to a life sentence in prison.[31]

August 20, 2010: Church of Scotland makes stand against coal plant

The Church of Scotland in August 2010 claimed a new coal-fired power station planned in the area of Ayrshire would be counterproductive to combating climate change, despite the claims that the plant would use the latest clean-coal technology.

The church has joined a coalition of environmental groups opposing plans to construct the 1852MW station at Hunterston, which is located on the west coast of Scotland.[32]

July 2012: Group occupies Scotland Coal opencast mine

In July 2012 a group associated with Coal Action Scotland occupied Scottish Coal’s opencast mine site in the Douglas Valley as part of a week long of action against opencast mining. The camp was reported to run until the July 18 with a mass action to take place on Saturday July 14.[33]

Articles and Resources


  1. In the Shadow of Drax, Not So Much a Fight as a Festival, The Guardian, September 1, 2006.
  2. Green Protestors Mass to Close 'Drax the Destroyer', Climate Ark website, August 31, 2006.
  3. Protestors Raid Coal Power Plant, BBC News, October 8, 2007.
  4. Greenpeace Shuts Down Coal Fired Power Station, Greenpeace UK website, October 8, 2007.
  5. Activists Stop Welsh Coalmine Excavation, The Guardian, December 5, 2007. For video, see Polar Bears Populate Welsh Coal Mine.
  6. "Making a Stand", Merthyr Express, April 3, 2008.
  7. "Protestors Shut Down Open-Cast Mine in Wales, Two Arrests", Fossil Fools Day blog, April 1, 2008.
  8. "Climate Protest in City Centre", Nottingham Evening Post, April 1, 2008.
  9. "Eastside Climate Action Blockade E-ON Workers As Part of Fossil Fools Day", UK Indymedia, April 1, 2008.
  10. "Aberthaw Power Station Successfully Blockaded This Morning", UK Indymedia, April 3, 2008.
  11. "Direct Action Double Whammy Against Welsh Carbon Dinosaurs", Luther ap Blissett blog, April 6, 2008.
  12. "Coal train ambushed near power station in climate change protest", The Guardian, June 14, 2008.
  13. "Police arrest 29 coal train protesters", Reuters UK, June 14, 2008.
  14. Activists target Edelman in climate change protest, PR Week UK, 7/17/2008
  15. E.On Corporate Website, accessed 7/18/2008
  16. Carbon capture at E.ON’s Kingsnorth coal plant, Carbon Commentary, January 14, 2008
  17. Oxford Climate Action Spin The Spinners!, UK Indymedia, July 16, 2008
  18. Coal protest team glued to doors BBC News, August 11, 2008
  19. Juliette Jowit and Matthew Taylor, "Mass arrests over power station protest raise civil liberties concerns," The Guardian, April 14, 2009.
  20. "Coal protest outside council HQ," BBC News, August 10, 2009.
  21. "Coal protest woman: My children helped me be stronger eco-warrior" Kiran Randhawa, Evening Standard, October 27, 2009.
  22. "Protesters target E.ON's Ratcliffe plant," Reuters, August 31, 2009.
  23. James Kanter, "Clashes and Arrests at Coal Plant Protest in England," New York Times, October 19, 2009.
  24. "Mainshill hosts first Scottish Climate Camp" Ross Thomson, August 5, 2009.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Police arrest 11 at Climate Camp opencast mine protest" Severin Carrell, Guardian UK, January 25, 2010.
  26. "Protesters dig in over mining plans" Shrosphire Star, March 22, 2010.
  27. "Shuttle service helps anti-mining fight" Shrosphire Star, April 22, 2010.
  28. "Site of New UK Coal Open Cast Mine Occupied in Fife" Indymedia UK, March 26, 2010.
  29. "Protesters leave mine before court order" The Courier, April 2010.
  30. "Machines sabotaged at Mainshill Open Cast Coal Site" Coal Action Scotland, April 29, 2010.
  31. "Climate Protesters Face Life Sentences After Coal Train Blockade" Climate Connections, April 29, 2010.
  32. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/20/church-scotland-coal-power " Church of Scotland makes stand against coal power station"] Severin Carrell, August 20, 2010.
  33. "Glentaggart East Occupied! Site taken for action camp!" Coal Action Scotland, July 11, 2012.

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